Romantic Theology

Something must here be said to those who may ask ‘Who was Charles Williams?’ He had spent most of his life in the service of the Oxford University Press at Amen House, Warwick Square, London. He was a novelist, a poet, a dramatist, a biographer, a critic, and a theologian: a romantic theologian in the technical sense which he himself invented for those words. A romantic theologian does not mean one who is romantic about theology but one who is theological about romance, one who considers the theological implications of those experiences which are called romantic. The belief that the most serious and ecstatic experiences either of human love or of imaginative literature have such theological implications, and that they can be healthy and fruitful only if the implications are diligently thought out and severely lived, is the root principle of all his work. His relation to the modern literary current was thus thoroughly 'ambivalent'. He could be grouped with the counter-romantics in so far as he believed untheologized romanticism (like Plato's 'unexamined life') to be sterile and mythological. On the other hand, he could be treated as the head of the resistance against the moderns in so far as he believed the romanticism which they were rejecting as senile to be really immature, and looked for a coming of age where they were huddling up a hasty and not very generous funeral. He will not fit into a pigeon-hole.

The fullest and most brilliant expression of his outlook is to be found in his mature poetry, and especially in Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars. As I have in preparation a much longer study of these works, I must here content myself with saying that they seem to me, both for the soaring and gorgeous novelty of their technique and for their profound wisdom, to be among the two or three most valuable books of verse produced in the (20th) century.

C.S. Lewis ~ From the Preface to:
“Essays Presented to Charles Williams” (OUP 1947)


bgc said...

I find Williams romantic theology a fascinating theory (expounded by various poets) - but I see no *evidence* that the way of affirmation has ever actually worked in real life - in the way that the via negativa has worked in the lives of many saints.

Do you know of any successful examples of people who became holy by the way of affirmation?

Roger said...

Wish I did... a bit out of my field, but like you I find his world-view most interesting and compulsive.